World must wake up to Iran regime’s ex­trem­ism, sec­tar­i­an­ism

Arab News - - Opinion - DR. MO­HAMMED AL-SULAMI

The Mid­dle East and the wider world had been at peace with Iran un­til the cler­ics took power in 1979. They hi­jacked the pop­u­lar up­ris­ing and im­ple­mented an ide­ol­ogy that in­cited re­li­gious and sec­tar­ian ten­sions and wars. In ad­di­tion, they de­ployed mili­tias and mer­ce­nar­ies to tar­get dif­fer­ent eth­nic and re­li­gious group­ings in the re­gion.

The Ira­nian regime’s project piv­ots around ex­port­ing its ex­trem­ist sec­tar­ian “revo­lu­tion.” Or, to put it more bluntly, the Wi­layat Al-Faqih regime has, since its in­cep­tion, sowed the seeds of ter­ror­ism and sec­tar­i­an­ism in the Mid­dle East. The present-day rulers in

Iran have em­barked on a mis­sion to spread chaos across the re­gion. For this ob­jec­tive, they have largely de­pended on armed mili­tias that re­ceive money, weapons and train­ing at mil­i­tary camps run by the regime’s Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Iran’s regime has es­tab­lished so-called cul­tural cen­ters un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the IRGC in sev­eral coun­tries, in­clud­ing Su­dan, Nige­ria, Syria, Le­banon, Ye­men, and Co­moros. Th­ese cen­ters fo­cus on cre­at­ing and em­bed­ding ter­ror­ist cells and spread­ing the regime’s hard-line Wi­layat Al-Faqih ide­ol­ogy. The Ira­nian regime has also car­ried out ter­ror op­er­a­tions tar­get­ing diplo­matic mis­sions and dis­si­dents both in­side and out­side Iran.

Those who re­flect on and study the his­tory of post-revo­lu­tion Iran will dis­cover that the regime is in­ca­pable of co­ex­ist­ing with oth­ers. They will also dis­cover that, for le­git­i­macy, the regime de­pends on ex­port­ing chaos and in­sta­bil­ity to the out­side world. In ad­di­tion, to main­tain its sup­port base it med­dles in the af­fairs of re­gional coun­tries and fi­nances ter­ror op­er­a­tions within their bor­ders.

The lat­est ev­i­dence prov­ing Iran’s bel­liger­ent be­hav­ior came this month in a state­ment by UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res. He in­formed the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil that the cruise mis­siles used to at­tack oil fa­cil­i­ties and an in­ter­na­tional air­port in Saudi Ara­bia last year were of Ira­nian ori­gin. Guter­res fur­ther con­firmed that sev­eral items in US seizures of weapons and re­lated ma­teriel in Novem­ber 2019 and Fe­bru­ary 2020 were also of Ira­nian ori­gin. The UN head pointed out that the design spec­i­fi­ca­tions of th­ese items strongly re­sem­bled those pro­duced by a commercial en­tity in Iran, while the items also bear Farsi lo­gos.

This cru­cial tes­ti­mony by the UN head is sim­ply the lat­est in a vast cat­a­logue of ev­i­dence that con­firms the Ira­nian regime’s hos­til­ity to­ward re­gional coun­tries. Some coun­tries from out­side the re­gion are per­plexed by Iran’s hos­tile poli­cies, but Arab coun­tries, es­pe­cially those in the Ara­bian Gulf, be­cause of their ge­o­graph­i­cal prox­im­ity to Tehran, are fully aware of the na­ture and re­al­ity of the Ira­nian regime.

The regime in Tehran, mean­while, knows its sur­vival de­pends on evad­ing its com­mit­ments to the Ira­nian peo­ple, in­clud­ing the long­suf­fer­ing re­li­gious and eth­nic mi­nori­ties in the coun­try. The Ira­nian regime prefers to fo­cus on the out­side world or, one might say, “es­cap­ing for­ward” to dis­tract the Ira­nian peo­ple from the main cause of their suf­fer­ing — the regime it­self. One only needs to look at the dire liv­ing con­di­tions of the Baloch, Kur­dish and Arab eth­nic group­ings in­side Iran to see how the regime op­presses them po­lit­i­cally, so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally. Mem­bers of re­li­gious mi­nori­ties, in­clud­ing Baha’is, Sun­nis and Chris­tians, are also reg­u­larly tar­geted, with many tor­tured and ex­e­cuted in regime prisons. Any­one com­par­ing this to pre-revo­lu­tion Iran will get some idea of the true enor­mity of the suf­fer­ing that much, if not most, of the Ira­nian pop­u­la­tion has en­dured since the revo­lu­tion.

The hor­ren­dous ev­i­dence on the ground from across the re­gion has ex­posed the

Ira­nian regime’s long record of at­tempt­ing to ap­pear as the in­no­cent vic­tim and helper of the op­pressed. The Ira­nian regime has di­rectly or in­di­rectly been in­volved in killing tens of thou­sands of in­no­cent peo­ple in Syria, Iraq, Ye­men, Le­banon and even in­side Iran it­self. It has dis­placed mil­lions and sent IRGC per­son­nel to fight in Syria and Iraq.

With re­spect to the re­la­tion­ship be­tween var­i­ous ter­ror­ist groups and the Ira­nian regime, it is widely known and well­doc­u­mented that the regime hosted Al-Qaeda com­man­ders and mem­bers. It pro­vided them with all the nec­es­sary help to carry out at­tacks against the in­ter­ests of Arab and Western coun­tries. For ex­am­ple, Tehran hosted Al-Qaeda lead­ers such as Abu Hafs Al-Mau­ri­tani, Saif Al-Adl, Su­laiman Abu Gheith, Abul Laith Al-Libi, and Abul-Khayr Al-Masri, among oth­ers. Iran also hosted mem­bers of Osama bin Laden’s fam­ily and is still host­ing many Al-Qaeda mem­bers who are wanted in­ter­na­tion­ally.

The Ira­nian regime has the op­tion to change and be part of the on­go­ing in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to com­bat ter­ror. This can only hap­pen via ac­tion on the ground — speeches and com­ments are not good enough.

Tehran could un­der­take pos­i­tive steps, such as halt­ing its fi­nanc­ing of mili­tias and mer­ce­nar­ies, hand­ing over Al-Qaeda lead­ers, end­ing its in­sti­ga­tion of sec­tar­ian ha­tred and re­li­gious con­flicts, and in­te­grat­ing with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Th­ese steps could help Iran move away from its sta­tus as a sec­tar­ian revo­lu­tion­ary regime and be­come a nor­mal state.

The plain truth is that the lead­er­ship in Tehran re­fuses to be­lieve, de­spite the over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence, that its pop­u­lar do­mes­tic base is now de­clin­ing, es­pe­cially among the coun­try’s poor, who were once the pri­mary sup­port­ers of the regime. Out­side Iran, mean­while, the on­go­ing protests in

Iraq and Le­banon against Iran’s in­ter­fer­ence in­di­cate the rapid de­cline of Ira­nian in­flu­ence across the re­gion.

While re­gional coun­tries are keen to pro­mote peace­ful co­ex­is­tence, mu­tual re­spect and good neigh­bor­li­ness with Iran and its peo­ple, they reit­er­ate that they will no longer re­main silent on the Ira­nian regime’s ter­ri­ble ex­cesses.

All of us will pay a heavy price un­less se­ri­ous global ac­tion is taken to counter the regime’s in­sa­tiable thirst to shed blood and kill in­no­cent peo­ple in or­der to ex­port its revo­lu­tion. It is im­per­a­tive that the Ira­nian regime dis­solves its sec­tar­ian mili­tias and ends its de­lib­er­ate provo­ca­tions that have led to sec­tar­i­an­ism and an­tag­o­nism in the re­gion. How­ever, if the regime is left to con­tinue with its provo­ca­tions, they could lead to un­speak­able con­se­quences, not only for the re­gion’s coun­tries, but for the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity in its en­tirety. Sta­bil­ity and peace will only come about if the world wakes up to the grave and very real dangers of ter­ror­ism and sec­tar­ian con­flict that are in­sti­gated and en­abled by the Ira­nian regime.

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